Chapter 18: Xenophobia part 1
Even if the humans were asleep, it was an uneasy sleep. And when the flames died out, some of us Chimeras, too, fell into an uneasy sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I was too anxious. So I kept listening to the wind and dust outside, howling and scraping at everything it found. I wondered if the storms were going to get strong enough to tear our shelter apart. But I stopped myself from being anxious over it. If it did happen there would be nothing anyone could do to save us.
I heard one of the armored humans stir, and my eye was immediately drawn to her. It was the one with the light blue hair, like the armored man. She looked up at me and gave me a small smile, before carefully making her way around the others to sit down near me.
“Hi, thank you for your help today, miss…” she said, before trailing off a little bit. I gave her a nod, and she looked over at the armored man. “I’m so sorry about what my brother did earlier. And how he was acting. He gets nervous about people hurting me, and hurting our princess or others, and we kind of… came into this expecting nothing but enemies, at best.”
“I can understand that,” I whispered. After all, I was feeling extremely reluctant to give these humans any information about the village at all…
The human nodded, and looked away, coughing again. She shook her head and turned back to me. “What’s your name?”
“Is that the name your parents gave you…?”
I narrowed my eyes. “What do you mean? It’s what I’ve always been called.”
“Ah, I’m sorry...” There was another pause. “I’m Safiena. And my brother’s name is Fayne.”
“That’s good to know,” I muttered. There was yet another pause, during which Safiena seemed to become even more uneasy.
“Where are you chimeras from? I’ve never even heard of your kind before, and I kind of thought I grew up in a place with a lot of different species in it.”
“We’re from around here,” I said. I didn’t know what she meant by different species. “We don’t really talk to humans much here.”
She nodded. “Well… there aren’t many humans in my hometown either. There are some, though. They’re not too different from us, after all.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “You’re saying you’re not human?”
“No,” she said, blinking at me. “Don’t you see our ears?”
“Yeah, they’re strange, but you look human to me.”
She blinked again, then looked away. “I mean… we’re not all that different, but we’re not human. We’re elves.”
“I’ve never heard of elves before.”
“Just how much have you heard of the world outside this place…?”
“Honestly, not much. I’m not very concerned about it.” I had other, more important things to worry about.
She nodded slowly, thoughtfully, before responding. “And… do any humans come in here?”
“Not past the mountains, no. If they go too deep into the mountains they usually get torn apart by the monsters, or the dust. We sometimes find their corpses while out hunting, but I’ve never seen any of them alive.”
She looked away from me, seemingly lost in thought. A gust of wind blew something against the side of our shelter with a loud crack. Everyone jolted awake in a panic. We all looked around, to make sure the shelter was intact. I didn’t see any holes or damage, and it seemed like nobody else saw any either. Rune and Storm closed their eyes again, storm leaning further towards me and almost resting his wing on my shoulder. The elves were still looking around. I remembered how one of the girls had been able to make her hand glow, and I wondered just how difficult it was for them to see in the dark.
“There’s no damage we can see,” I said, keeping my voice low. Harold and a few of the other elves nodded at me, and closed their eyes again. Fayne and the girl who had the glowing hand were the only ones who didn’t, and Fayne was clearly struggling to keep his eyes open. The girl looked at Safiena and I, before sitting up. I glanced over at Scout, who was watching the three of us closely.
“What’s your name again?” the girl with the glowing hand asked me.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Valla. And you already know Safiena, and Harold, and… did we introduce Anna, Harold’s daughter?” Valla gestured towards the other civilian woman who had arrived.
“I don’t believe so.”
“Well, that’s her name. And the… well, Safiena’s brother…”
“The asshole?” Safiena asked. Valla winced. “I’ve called him worse, don’t worry about offending me.”
“Well, his name is Fayne,” Valla finished. “And then the other woman here is Nayila.”
“I see,” I said. “And you didn’t come with anyone else?”
“No, just the six of us,” Valla said. She smiled a little bit. “And I almost didn’t get to come on the journey as well, but I’m glad I’m here now, honestly.”
“What, exactly, were you people expecting to find or do here?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at her.
“Well… there were a lot of reasons…” Valla said. “I mean, there was the political reason…”
“Princess, are you sure you should be telling her all of our reasons?” Safiena asked. “I mean, they’re nice but… is it necessary?”
“I don’t know yet,” Valla said, furrowing her brow in irritation. “But these people are clearly helping us, even though they don’t trust us a lot yet. Maybe we should try trusting them a little bit more first.”
Safiena leaned back, and looked away from me. Valla turned back to me completely, but was looking at her hands. I noticed metal bands around her fingers and jeweled strings around her wrists, and wondered what purpose they served. “Gray, to be honest, we thought this was the territory of Lassania. Yet you and the others don’t seem to know what Lassania is… with the exception of, well…” she glanced at Scout, who just smiled a little bit.
“Scout,” I said. “His name is Scout.”
Valla nodded. “But we noticed that there was just… a cloud almost, hanging over this area. And as our scouts and spies started to come back from Lassania with information, they mentioned the area, saying that people in Lassania were terrified of it. The only spies we lost were those who decided to venture into this area… so we wanted to know what was in it. And what the cloud was.”
“And do you have any idea?”
“The cloud seems to be the dust. So I was hoping you’d be able to give us some insight on that…”
I shook my head. “I’ll be honest. That’s why we’re out here in this shelter: to figure out what that stuff is exactly and how we can get rid of it, or at least make it more bearable to live around.”
“So… not even you guys know what the dust is, then?”
“No. Just how to survive by a thread around it.”
Valla nodded, closing her eyes. “You know, as much as I wish it weren’t a problem right now… I’m a little glad it’s not, well, known.”
Safiena blinked in surprise and turned back to us. “What? Why?”
“I don’t want to go back to Akalai yet,” Valla said with a sad smile.